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Union Safety Rep Works to Prevent Injuries

After reading the OSHA citation and company reply from Ashley Furniture in Arcadia, WI; I am reminded how grateful I am to have my job. I am the Union Safety Representative in a unionized food processing plant here in Wisconsin. One of my roles is to investigate every first report of injury and visit with the effected employee. One simple question is always asked: “What could I or the company do differently so that this injury never happens again?” Sometimes the answer is nothing, but most of the time there are suggestions or ideas of how to correct a hazard that may have contributed to the injury. And all management levels from the line tech-manager to upper management and beyond are involved in my investigation process.
If I feel that the company is not doing all it can in correcting a hazard, or the employee does not feel safe, I am given the authority by the company to shut down a line or machine which has the potential hazard. There would then be an immediate meeting with all levels of management until the matter is resolved in a timely manner. Fortunately, this does not happen often because most situations are handled through the escalation process before I have to enforce a shut down.
Our facility has also reduced our incident rate and loss time rate over the last 5 years. But it is important to note that most companies now accommodate employees to stay at work which means it is NOT safer – it is just shifting some numbers. For this reason I believe that the OSHA recordable is a good number because it is constant over a time period.
OSHA inspector, Mark Hysell stated, “It’s unconscionable that employees are disciplined for reaching into moving equipment time and time again and injuries happen on the same pieces of equipment on multiple occasions.” When OSHA gets a complaint or is on site at my plant – I am involved in every step of the process, per our company, to ensure that all sides are presented.
 My suggestions to any company dealing with a potentially hazardous work situation:
 If someone can reach into moving equipment- GUARD IT.
 If you need more E- stops- PUT THEM IN.
 Stop trying to bend the “minor servicing rule ” in LOTO
 Rather than fighting and disagreeing with OSHA- LISTEN TO THEM. I can give you 1,766,000 reasons why!

Henck’s right-to-work argument is flawed — Kurt C. Kobelt

Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/opinion/mailbag/henck-s-right-to-work-argument-is-flawed–/article_2cbac177-5192-5537-a695-0ddf90d47d9b.html#ixzz3TtiGBu8t

While the debate over right-to-work has little to do with logic and facts and everything to do with curtailing organized labor’s political power by depriving it of revenue, there is one claim right-to-work advocates such as last Sunday’s columnist Mitch Henck make that has superficial appeal.

Why shouldn’t unions simply exercise their legal rights to form “members only” unions? Then there wouldn’t be any of the “freeloaders” unions complain about who benefit by union representation but who don’t pay dues.

As an attorney who has represented unions for over 35 years, it seems to me the problem with this approach is that it ignores the legal reality that a union cannot simply decide to become a “members” only union that does not represent non-members. A union must ask the employer to voluntarily recognize it as a representative of members only.

Employers have a strong economic incentive not to voluntarily agree to have any type of union. If an employer agreed to recognize a “members only” union, that union would bargain for better wages and benefits than those received by nonmembers.

The employer who agrees to this will face all kinds of headaches. It will have to administer two different wage and benefit policies. More important, nonmembers who work under the inferior wages and benefits will have considerable incentive to join the union to improve their lot.

If members-only unions were the solution, then why are there none in existence in right-to-work states? It’s not because unions are power hungry. It’s simple economics.

— Kurt C. Kobelt, Madison

Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/opinion/mailbag/henck-s-right-to-work-argument-is-flawed–/article_2cbac177-5192-5537-a695-0ddf90d47d9b.html#ixzz3TtiwAa4B

Kraft and Heinz Merger to Create Food Giant

Heinz is buying Kraft Foods to create the world’s fifth largest food and beverage company, with sales of about $28 billion.

Kraft shares surged more than 33% Wednesday.

Kraft owns popular brands such as Jell-O, Maxwell House coffee and Planters peanuts. Heinz, of course, is famous for its ketchup, and also owns Lea & Perrins and Ore-Ida.

Kraft shareholders will receive stock in the Kraft Heinz Company, plus a special dividend of $16.50 per share funded by a $10 billion cash injection by Heinz owners 3G Capital and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA).

This isn’t the first time that Buffett has worked with 3G Capital. In 2013, they teamed up to acquire Heinz.

Berkshire Hathaway also helped 3G Capital finance Burger King’s purchase of Canadian chain Tim Hortons last year.

Once the deal is done, Heinz shareholders will own 51% of the combined firm while Kraft shareholders will get a 49% stake.

“By bringing together these two iconic companies through this transaction, we are creating a strong platform for both U.S. and international growth,” said Heinz chairman and 3G managing partner Alex Behring.

Just last week, Kraft recalled 240,000 cases of macaroni and cheese, because some boxes may have been contaminated with pieces of metal.

Kraft Heinz will have headquarters in both Pittsburgh and the Chicago area. Heinz CEO Bernardo Hees will be CEO of the combined group.

Berkshire Hathaway will have three seats on the new board.

Heinz and Kraft are aiming to generate $1.5 billion in annual cost savings by the end of 2017.

The merger has been agreed by the boards of both companies, but needs regulatory approval and the support of Kraft shareholders. The companies expect the deal to close in the second half of 2015.

Gov. Walker to Sign RTW Today

Despite years of saying Right to Work was not his priority and would never get to this desk, Gov. Walker will sign Right to Work Monday, March 9.

Despite weeks of protest from citizens, business owners and people of faith, Gov. Walker is once again putting his political ambitions ahead of what is best for the people of Wisconsin. By weakening unions, Right to Work lowers wages for everyone, hurts the middle class and depresses down our whole economy. We know that strong unions allow for a strong middle class and lift wages and working conditions for everyone in our state.

Email Gov. Walker now and tell him not to sign Right to Work into law.

Right to Work is wrong for Wisconsin. It does not create jobs, but it will lower wages, decrease safety standards and weaken the middle class. In a time when wages are stagnant , income inequality is rising and good jobs are hard to find, right to work is not the policy Wisconsin lawmakers need to advance.

Click here to tell Gov. Walker not to sign the bill into law.

Brothers and sisters, we can be proud of the fight back we accomplished. Thousands of workers, union and non-union, came to Madison to oppose Right to Work. We participated in our democratic process and made our voices heard. Now, we must continue to hold politicians accountable to the people, not to their out-of-state special interest campaign donors.

Forward, together in solidarity,

Phil Neuenfeldt, President AFL-CIO

Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer AFL-CIO

Rally Thursday to Oppose Right to Work

Brothers and Sisters,

Wisconsin citizens young and old, union and non-union, came out yesterday to testify against Right to Work legislation. Worker testimony in opposition of the bill dominated the 12 hour hearing. In fact, 8 of the 12 hours were filled only with working people speaking out against the bill – proponents of the bill were hard to find.

Despite an overwhelming outcry from citizens to “kill the bill” or at least slow the process down, the Right to Work bill is expected to go the Assembly floor for a vote this Thursday, March 5. Showing their true colors, Republicans who control the Assembly Labor Committee cowardly refused to even hold a vote in the Committee, instead skirting democracy once again and breaking normal rules sending it straight to the Assembly floor.

Rally Thursday to Oppose Right to Work. Join us at 12:00 p.m. noon on Thursday, March 5, on the State Street side of the Capitol. Click here to RSVP.

Assembly Floor Session on RTW expected at 1:00 p.m. Thursday, March 5.

Join us as we bear witness to this historic moment in Wisconsin‘s history as Assembly Republicans finish the deal on Right to Work. Be there to witness this travesty of justice and democracy in an attempt to drive down real Wisconsin worker wages. Debate is expected to go around the clock, plan to stay and bear witness.

We’re not giving up the fight. We will continue to make our voices heard and our opposition strong.

Click here to sign our petition to stand against Right to Work.

**Donations can be made to the official Wisconsin Worker Defense Fund. Click here or send checks to: Wisconsin AFL-CIO Worker Defense Fund, 6333 W. Bluemound Rd. Milwaukee, WI, 53213

Stand up for union rights, stand up for safe workplaces, stand up for a strong middle class and a democracy that listens to the people, not the special interests.

In Solidarity,

Phil Neuenfeldt, President

Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer



Brothers and Sisters,
Thousands of working families have been coming to the Capitol to detail the impact of Right to Work legislation on their lives. Workers have been speaking up and making it clear to their elected officials that Right to Work will lower wages for all, decrease workplace safety, destroy long-standing training programs that give workers valuable skills and make it harder Wisconsin to feed their families, pay their bills, and have a shot at a decent life.

Last night, after hours of debate in the Senate, and with citizens watching and giving witness, the bill was passed, 17-15.

SOLIDARITY SATURDAY RALLY: Join working families at 12:00 p.m. noon on Saturday, February 28, at the State Street Side of the Capitol to continue to oppose Right to Work.

Will you be there? Click here to RSVP.

This week’s RTW fight back Schedule

MONDAY, March 2: TESTIFY MONDAY AT ASSEMBLY LABOR COMMITTEE ROOM 417 North. Register and testify against Right to Work at the Assembly Labor Committee meeting.

THURSDAY, March 5: It is virtually certain the bill will go to the full Assembly floor on Thursday, March 5. Be there.

Together, we will continue to work for a better Wisconsin. A Wisconsin where all workers have access to good family-supporting jobs and decent wages. A Wisconsin where the democratic process is respected and revered.

In Solidarity,

Phil Neuenfeldt, President

Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer

Right to Work is about Silencing our Voice So We Can’t Speak Out About Lower Wages and Mistreatment at Work

RTW is an attack on all Wisconsin Families: The out-of-state millionaires and billionaires who are working with extreme politicians here in Wisconsin to push Right to Work don’t care if you live in a union household or a non-union household because Right to Work lowers wages for all families. Everyone who lives in Right to Work states make up to $5,000 less per year than folks who do the same job in Non-Right to Work states.

RTW is not the way we do things in Wisconsin. It cripples our fundamental right to join together, stick together and have a meaningful voice in the workplace: We have a tradition here in Wisconsin of strong communities who take care of one another. Right to Work means we won’t have the freedom to “have each other’s backs” and bargain with our employers as we see fit. Right now, workers throughout Wisconsin and across the country are gathering in Wisconsin to fight back, together. We are using the tool Governor Walker is most afraid of: our collective voice.

RTW is a distraction from what we sent our elected officials to Madison to do: RTW backers should focus on creating good jobs and healthy communities instead of playing political games with unnecessary RTW legislation.

RTW is Government Intrusion in the Workplace: Extreme Republican politicians like to talk a big game about freedom and the free market, but RTW is government telling people like you and me how we can negotiate with our bosses. Government should stay out of private contracts and let us work together with our workplaces to create a safe, stable and skilled workforce with good jobs. Apparently our freedoms end where big checks from out-of-state millionaires and billionaires begin.

Making Wisconsin a Right to Work state will not create jobs: Seven of the ten states with the highest unemployment levels have passed Right to Work. Even the people who work for the National Right to Work Committee say it won’t. Recently, Stanley Greer, a spokesman for the National Right to Work Committee stated that, “We’re not purporting to prove that right-to-work produces superior economic performance.”

Companies looking for new places to locate are not looking for Right to Work legislation: Employers say RTW is not important. On annual surveys of manufacturers by Area Development magazine, RTW never ranked in the top 10 factors influencing location decisions.

Right to Work HARMS the things that companies DO look for when thinking about relocation: Businesses look for a highly skilled workforce capable of doing the job before anything else. RTW laws undermine union training and apprenticeship programs. Many unions train workers at their own expense. RTW removes the funding sources of well-respected training and apprenticeship programs that benefit business and the entire community.

RTW backers talk about “freedom” to deceive us. Right to Work isn’t about freedom at all: The same people who support Right to Work also support moving workers into part-time positions. The same people who support Right to Work also support Offshoring profits and shipping jobs to countries with subpar working conditions. The same people who support Right to Work support breaking down laws that protect our health and safety on the job. None of these things is about freedom, they are about maximizing profits for the wealthiest people in the nation. So is Right to Work.

No one is legally allowed to be forced to join a union: The Supreme Court of the United States has already protected Americans from being forced to join anything. It is the law of the land. Right to Work is about silencing your voice and mine so we can’t speak out about mistreatment at work.

Phonebank Against “Right to Work” from the Madison Labor Temple

All of us throughout Wisconsin have been talking to our neighbors and meeting with legislators to show them the evidence on why so-called “right to work” laws would hurt Wisconsin workers and businesses.

But now this dangerous legislation will be introduced in the Senate, and we need you to fight back.

At a time when many in our state are still feeling the effects of the greatest economic disaster in nearly a century, we cannot afford to let the people who represent us pass a law that will lower our wages, put our local businesses at a competitive disadvantage, and take away workers’ rights.

We need you, and your friends, and members of your union to tell your elected officials — the people who represent you, not the Koch brothers or multibillion dollar corporations — that right to work is wrong for Wisconsin. Will you join us?

Every Day, All Day
Saturday, Feb. 21 – Wednesday, Feb. 25
10 AM – 8 PM and 12 PM – 8 PM on Sunday
1602 S. Park Street, Room 212
For more information, contact Greg Neil at 608–556-9521 or gneil@wisaflcio.org

Rally at the Capitol
Tuesday and Wednesday
12 Noon
State Street side of the Capitol Building